Category Archives: Upper Deck Insight

Crystal Ball Time – 500 Level Fan’s Fearless Second Half Predictions

With baseball’s second half set to kick off tonight I figured it was time to lose my prediction virginity.  I have never written a prediction article.  Not when I wrote for TO Sports.  Not when I briefly wrote for Fadoo.  Never. 

But – seeing how I love to read prediction columns, why not try to write one?  If even one of these come true it will be nothing short of miraculous.  The below predictions are split into Blue Jay specific and the rest of baseball.  Enjoy.

(Note: I have absolutely no inside knowledge from any viable source.  If I did, I would be in Vegas, not at work.)

MLB Second Half Predictions

Playoff Spots

– AL East: Tampa wins the division, Yankees fade a bit down the stretch but snag the wild card

– AL Central: Division looks set to finish as a three-way tie, but Minnesota surges ahead at the end to win it, mainly because Alex Rios hits .097 in September

– AL West: Texas in a landslide, teaching the Angels that Brandon Wood has no place on a major league field

– NL East: Philly has a solid September and passes Atlanta for the division title on the strength of Halladay

– NL Central: In a wild finish, Cincinnati holds off St. Louis for their first title since ’95.  The Cardinals get the wild card.

– NL West: San Diego falls apart when their young arms tire, Ubaldo fades, and the Dodgers self destruct.  Giants grab a much needed bat at the deadline and steal the division on the last day.


MVP – AL: Miguel Cabrera, NL: Joey Votto

Cy Young – AL: Cliff Lee, NL: Roy Halladay

Rookie – AL: Brennan Boesch, NL: Jason Heyward

Manager – AL: Ron Washington, NL: Dusty Baker


– Roy Halladay goes 7-0 in September with two starts on three days rest to push the Phillies to the playoffs

– Prince Fielder is traded to San Francisco

– Ubaldo Jimenez completely falls apart in September, handing the NL West to the Giants and the Cy Young to Doc

– Albert Pujols hits 25 home runs in the second half, leading the Cards to the playoffs and me to my fantasy league title

– Pittsburgh continues to suck

Blue Jay Second Half Predictions

– Yunel Escobar hits 10 second half home runs.  In Atlanta, Alex Gonzalez hits 3.

– Lyle Overbay, John Buck, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, and Jason Frasor are all traded.  Jose Bautista is not.

– Bautista is caught by Miggy Cabrera of Detroit in the HR race, but sill finishes with 37, by far his career high.

– We are treated to the MLB debuts of JP Arencibia, Brett Wallace, and Brad Emaus in September.  Kyle Drabek is not called up.

– Johnny Mac outhomers Edwin Encarnacion in the second half 2-1.  I take back the apology I offered EE in early July when he had a 3-hit game.

– David Purcey gets an opportunity to finish games after Gregg is traded and finishes with 10 + saves.

– The Jays win their last home game on Sept 29 6-5 over the Yankees.  The fans give Cito a ten minute ovation in his final home game as Toronto manager.

– The Moustache Masturbator, and Bobby and Pingu make another appearance in the 500 Level Fan of the Game section.

– Toronto goes 30-43 in the second half to finish the season with 74 wins, about 14 more wins than the “experts” predicted.

– I likely never write a prediction article again

Bye Bye A-Gonz, Hello Yunel

The newest Blue Jay Yunel Escobar

Thank you Alex Anthopoulos.  On the worst day of the sporting calendar – there is literally nothing on tonight (looking forward to SportsCentre tomorrow) – the Jays GM made some news with a pretty major trade.  Gone is Alex Gonzalez and two prospects (Tim Collins and Tyler Pastronicky).  To the Jays comes SS Yunel Escobar and P Jo-Jo Reyes. 

After letting it sink in for a few hours I came to the conclusion that I like this trade.  A lot actually.  While Reyes might not be worth a lot at this point, Yunel Escobar is thought to be one of the best young shortstops in baseball.  Though he is having an off year and there are some questions about his work ethic, there’s no denying the fact that he has a lot of potential.  He could be a star. 

Gonzalez was having a nice year for Toronto, but he was simply a stopgap SS who was not going to be around for the long haul.

My support of the trade can be summarized by two numbers: .368 and 27.

The first is Escobar’s career OBP.  Let’s face it: the Jays might hit a lot of home runs, but they are terrible at getting on base.  Their team OBP is .306 – 28th in baseball, ahead of only the Pirates and Astros.  Toronto’s top OBP this season belongs to Jose Bautista at .361.  Even though Escobar’s stats are down, his .334 OBP this year puts him in third place on the Jays, behind only Bautista and Molina.  Not bad.

The second number is his age.  At 27 Escobar is just coming into his prime.  He is six years younger than Gonzalez and should give Toronto several years of good production.  He has averaged 12 HR and 68 RBI the past two seasons, very good numbers for a shortstop.  Maybe a change of scenery is all he’ll need to snap out of his 2010 funk.

As far as the prospects the Jays gave up, Tim Collins appears to be the bigger loss with his dominating performance at AA this season.  I contacted Ottawa correspondent WCF (Willie Canate Fan), a Blue Jays minor league expert, to get his take:

I loved Tim Collins, really hurts to see him go.  But I can’t believe they got Yunel Escobar, it would have taken the whole farm system to get him last year.


Pastornicky was a decent SS prospect, there was an interview with the farm director or something today at battersbox (from before the trade) where they said he probably profiled better as a 2B long-term, and most likely a utility player.  He had good defensive and contact skills, but was still pretty raw, has very little power, its a longshot for him to be an impact player.  For whatever its worth, JP Ricciardi said earlier this year that the Jays didn’t really need to sign Adeiny Hechevarria because they already had their future SS in the system, Tyler Pastornicky.  JP drafted him, so it kind of makes sense.  Plus its JP.


Collins is tiny but he has video game numbers and a great story.  I think he’s going to be good, I’ve seen video of him pitching and he looks great, like a baby LH Lincecum.  He has a smooth delivery, he leans way back and comes right over the top so he develops all kinds of torque.  The other thing is that he hides the ball until the last possible minute, so he throws 93mph, but it probably looks like 103.  His pitching coach at AA said that its fun to watch him pitch, guys go up there sitting on the fastball and still can’t catch up to it.  And he has an insane curve as well.


Tough loss, but then even if he turns out to be a great reliever, he’s still a reliever and they basically traded him for one of the best young SS in baseball (albeit one having an off year).  And his size probably makes it unlikely that he has a long career.  Although it will be entertaining while it lasts.

Two Reasons Why the HR Derby Sucks

There was no Bautista.  Vernon Wells sucked.  Nick Swisher was in it.  David Ortiz won it. 

All of those are valid reasons why the derby stunk last night.  Our friend the Blue Jay Hunter wrote a nice piece about the derby and touched on some of those.

But I have two main problems with the home run derby that were either only briefly touched on, or else not at all discussed.  What you’re about to read might seem like a hard rant against one of baseball’s most popular annual events, but I think a lot of people share my opinion on this.  I’ll even go so far as to offer some potential solutions.  Some might seem far fetched or unreasonable, but hey – it’s my blog so suck it up.  Please let me know your thoughts, and maybe we can expand this discussion further.

Anyways, here goes:

Reason #1 the HR Derby Sucks…..Announcers

Twitter erupted last night about how badly the home run derby announce team performed, and I whole-heartedly agree.  Chris Berman’s “back back back back back back” bit has clearly had its day.  Joe Morgan’s fascination on David Ortiz’s shoes was just plain weird.  Bobby Valentine made an absolute fool of himself…twice.  First, he predicted the derby would be won by “Jose Ortiz” a made up player starring in his fantasy land.  Second, after Berman mentioned that today marks the 50-year anniversary of the untimely death of Mark Scott (the host of the original HR Derby TV series), Valentine poked fun of him.  “How did he die of a heart attack, he never got excited!”  Even Berman was stunned about the stupidity of the comment.

If that wasn’t enough, the guests that were brought into speak were dreadful.  Nobody cares about how A-Rod feels when he hits a post-season HR.  Will Ferrell was not funny.  It was a train wreck, all night long.

Bottom line – something needs to change as people all across North America have clearly grown tired of the ESPN team.  Let’s shake it up.

Solution: Why not have each players local broadcast team call their turn at bat?  For instance, Buck and Pat could have called Vernon’s time at bat.  The weirdos from NESN could have called Big Papi, and so on.  The ESPN idiots could take over in round two and in the final, ensuring that they still get air time to annoy people.  But the first round would be different.  It would allow a national audience to hear local announcers and maybe hear a few stories about players that they don’t know.  What did we hear last night? “Nick Swisher’s dad played in the majors.”  Thanks Joe Morgan.

Hart sat idle for 90 minutes. Boring. (from

Reason #2 the HR Derby Sucks…..It’s Boring

Be honest.  Did anybody sit through the entire thing last night?  It is way too long, and way too repetitive.  If it’s even too long for the players (see Corey Hart sitting for over 90 minutes after his first turn at bat) it is wwwwwaaaaayyyyy too long for the viewers.  I couldn’t handle it and switched off for a while.  Thought it always promises to excite, the home run derby rarely does.  Only once did it enthrall me, and that is when Josh Hamilton was at Yankee Stadium two years ago.  And even that fizzled out in the final.

To make matters worse, Angels Stadium is boring.  Every home run ended up in the stands, or against a rock.  Wow.  Amazing.  Give me Fenway or Wrigley, where balls can actually leave the stadium and hit cars.  Give me Yankee Stadium where balls can go deep into the upper deck.  Even give me the SkyDome, where balls can pepper Window’s restaurant or the 500 Level.  Every hit looked the same last night.

So how can this be fixed?  I have two solutions, one simple and one radical.

Simple Solution: Change the format.  Corey Hart clearly deserved a better fate last night.  Justin Morneau actually won the derby that Josh Hamilton absolutely dominated.  How does that happen?  Completely unfair.  How about this: instead of having three rounds, where the drama is far too drawn out and the players get tired, cut it to two.  Eight players hit.  Top two make the final.  Done.

Radical Solution: Add some flair to the competition.  Set up a point system, where not all home runs are created equal.  Yesterday, Matt Holliday’s 497 foot blast was worth one.  Vernon Wells’ first home run that didn’t even technically clear the fence (a fan reached over and caught it) was worth one.  Make longer bombs worth two points.  Put targets all over the outfield stands.  If a guy hits a target 450 away on the fly he gets 5 points.  If he nails a sign in the upper deck 500 feet from home plate?  25 bonus points.  Foul balls are negative, and foul tips (this is for you Swisher) count as two outs.  That would make the derby much, much, much more exciting for fans and TV viewers.  Probably for players too.

Will any of my solutions happen?  Not a chance.  Why?  Money.  Flying in eight local announce teams is expensive.  Shortening the format loses advertising time.  Having players aim for far away targets might open them up to injury by swinging too hard, causing insurance problems.

It will never happen.  But wouldn’t it be nice if for once baseball listened to its fans?

A Quick Comment on the HR Derby

J-Bau will not be in the HR Derby (photo from

There is a lot of anger and outrage around Toronto today, due to the fact that Major League Baseball’s home run leader has NOT been invited to participate in the Home Run Derby.  That’s right – Toronto’s own Jose Bautista, with 24 HR this season, was passed over for David Ortiz, Nick Swisher, Miguel Cabrera, and teammate Vernon Wells.  Personally I don’t really care.  The second half curse of the derby has been well documented over the years, with several players losing the rhythm of their swing trying to hit home runs.  Do I believe that?  Not really, but I’d rather have a Yankee or Red Sox player prove it wrong than J-Bau.

But this is what isn’t right about the players in the derby field: they’re not the best HR hitters this year.  If the Home Run Derby is supposed to celebrate the best power hitters in the game, it should probaly have the top HR hitters participating.  Look at the participants and where they stand on the HR leaderboard:

American League

– Miguel Cabrera, Tigers – 22 HR, T2nd

– Vernon Wells, Blue Jays – 19 HR, 12th

– David Ortiz, Red Sox – 17 HR, T17th

– Nick Swisher, Yankees – 15 HR, T30th

National League

– Corey Hart, Brewers – 20 HR, T7th

– Matt Holliday, Cardinals – 15 HR, T30th

– Chris Young, Diamondbacks – 15 HR, T30th

– Hanley Ramirez, Marlins – 13 HR, T49th

In the meantime, the following players are at the All-Star Game but are not competing:

– Jose Bautista, Blue Jays – 24 HR, 1st

– Josh Hamilton, Rangers – 22 HR, T2nd

– Joey Votto, Reds – 22 HR, T2nd

– Albert Pujols, Cardinals – 21 HR, 6th

– Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers – 20 HR, T7th

– Paul Konerko, White Sox – 20 HR, T7th

That makes six players in tthe top-10 in all of baseball in HR who are not participating.  I understand that many turned down the opportunity, and that is their choice.  But when so many sluggers, so many more prolific and powerful sluggers, will be on the field watching, it kind of takes the shine off of the event.

Just sayin…

Not Your Average, Everyday All-Star Snub Column

Could this man have been an All-Star? (photo from

The MLB All-Star game is set for next Tuesday, July 13th in Anaheim.  Baseball’s All-Star game has many detractors but I for one enjoy it.  I like seeing the best players in each league playing a game for fun with nothing really on the line.  Sure it has problems.  Do I think the winner should get home field advantage in the World Series?  No.  Do I think rosters should have been expanded to an astronomical 34 players?  No.  But even with those corny initiatives, the baseball’s game is far superior to the other major sports.

But I’ll tell you one thing I do hate about the All-Star game: the inevitable snub columns.  As in every other sport, many players having excellent years miss the cut.  That’s the way it goes.  But on every sports website you will find multiple columns outlining who should have made it and why.  I have read that Joey Votto was screwed by eight different sportswriters.  Enough is enough.

So instead of jumping into the fray to tell you that Votto, or Kevin Youkilis, or Miguel Olivo, or Jered Weaver should have made it, I thought I’d switch it up.  Instead of focusing on the obvious, I am focusing on the more obscure.  Below are 13 players that many fans might not have heard of, or who were all but washed up last year.  Each are having excellent years, but none were recognized with an All-Star spot.

*Note: OPS rank is per position – min. 240 plate appearances

C – Geovany Soto, Cubs (.277 avg, 8 HR, 23 RBI, .872 OPS – 2nd)

1B – Aubrey Huff, Giants (.294 avg, 15 HR, 49 RBI, .916 OPS – 9th)

2B – Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks (.265 avg, 13 HR, 38 RBI, .851 OPS – 4th)

3B – Casey McGehee, Brewers (.274 avg, 13 HR, 52 RBI, .806 OPS – 9th)

SS – Alex Gonzalez, Blue Jays (.258 avg, 15 HR, 42 RBI, .782 OPS – 4th)

OF – Josh Willingham, Nationals (.281 avg, 15 HR, 46 RBI, .926 OPS – 4th)

OF – Colby Rasmus, Cardinals (.278 avg, 16 HR, 40 RBI, .916 OPS – 6th)

OF – Brennan Boesch, Tigers (.344 avg, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 1.001 OPS – 1st)

You won’t find any superstars on that list.  Huff is a journeyman who has bounced around a lot of bad teams over the years.  Johnson was deemed expendable by the Braves.  Rasmus is a second year player and Boesch is a rookie.  Gonzalez was supposed to be an all-glove no-bat player, and Soto was coming off an abysmal year where he was criticized for being overweight and getting caught with marijuana at the world baseball classic.  If anybody stands up and says they saw excellent seasons coming from this bunch they are both a liar and a coward.

Now for some pitchers.  I named three starters and two relievers, but did not include any closers.  Closers get all the attention – middle relievers get none.

SP – Mat Latos, Padres (9-4, 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.22 K/9)

SP – Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (8-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.35 K/9)

SP – Colby Lewis, Rangers (7-5, 3.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.34 K/9)

RP – Luke Gregerson, Padres (2-3, 2.23 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 11.38 K/9)

RP – Tyler Clippard, Nationals (8-5, 2.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.06 K/9)

Again, take a look at the names.  Coming into this year Latos had 10 career starts and Garcia had one.  Gregerson is in his second major league season.  Clippard plays for the Nationals.   Colby Lewis spent the last two seasons in Japan.  Enough said.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know some other players I might have missed, or if you think any of these shouldn’t be included.

Fun With Numbers – Half Way Home Edition

With the season just passing the official half-way point, let’s look at some numbers for the Blue Jays heading into the second half.  The 15 numbers listed below cover all kinds of statistical categories, and are current as of Sunday’s 7-6 extra inning loss to the Yankees.

41 – Wins by the Jays through July 4th (41-42 record).  Toronto was 42-40 through July 4th last season.

120 – Toronto home runs, still 1st in all of baseball, but now only ahead of the Boston Red Sox by 10.

0 – Wins by the Blue Jays in games that David Purcey makes an appearance.  After Sunday’s loss they are 0-11 when he pitches.

11 – Runs allowed by the Jays in the third inning yesterday, tying a franchise record set August 6, 1979 vs. KC.  (Thanks @MLBastian for the info)

17 – Games in which the Jays scored three runs or fewer in June.  The offense has not returned in July, with Toronto scoring three runs or less in two of the first four games this month.

7 – Blue Jay players who hit under .200 in June (Hill, Lind, Bautista, Encarnacion, Hoffpauir, Wise, McDonald)

82 – Rank of DH Adam Lind in the AL in OPS (out of 85).  His .617 OPS puts him ahead of only Jose Lopez of Seattle, and two White Sox: Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham.  Lind ranks behind such notable sluggers as Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall, and Chone Figgins.

85 – Rank of 2B Aaron Hill in the AL in batting average.  His .189 average puts him in dead last among hitters with enough AB to qualify for the batting title.

3 – Toronto Blue Jays named to the AL All-Star team: Vernon Wells, John Buck, Jose Bautista

4 – Years since the Jays have had three or more All-Stars.  2006 saw B.J. Ryan, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Troy Glaus named to the AL squad.

2 – Blue Jay catchers to be named to an All-Star team: Ernie Whitt (1985) and John Buck (2010)

.310 – Batting average for Lyle Overbay since dropping below the Mendoza line on May 28th.  From May 29 to July 4 his average has risen from .197 to .241.  Apologies accepted.

4 & 5 – Rank among AL pitchers in ERA for the month of June for Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.  Despite the stellar ERAs (Morrow 1.91, Romero 2.12) each pitcher had only one win.

9.27 – K/9 ratio for Brandon Morrow in June, 4th among AL Pitchers.  Only Jered Weaver, Francisco Liriano, and Max Scherzer were higher.

20 – Number of draft picks signed by Alex Anthopoulos since the draft held between June 7-9.  The GM has until August 15 to sign his remaining 36 picks.  Last year JP Ricciardi could only sign 30 of his 52 picks.

You Want Moves? We’ve Got Moves…

Brace yourself - he's back... (photo from

Busy Friday for the Blue Jays.  First, they went out and beat New York in Yankee Stadium, 6-1 in 11 innings.  The victory put an end to a brutal five game losing streak, and also saw them score more than five runs in a game – a rarity since the calendar turned to June.  Second, Cito showed signs of life, with his first ejection since August of 2009 – also at Yankee Stadium.  Third, and most important for this piece, Alex Anthopoulos made several roster moves.  For a more detailed account and analysis, I urge you to read Jays beat writer Jordan Bastian’s account here. But while you’re here, why not read my no-holds barred opinion on what went down yesterday?

First the Marcum injury (15-Day DL – right elbow inflammation).  Looking at it optimistically I can see two good points.  One is the fact that the injury does not appear to be serious.  According to the Jays, the All-Star break should be enough time for him to rest and heal, meaning he should be back at full strength post break.  Considering the All-Star game itself is only a week-and-a-half away that is good news.  Second is the fact that Marcum is injured and simply not struggling.  You never want to see a player go down, but in this case it is a little bit reassuring that we now have an explanation for his drop in performance.  From his start on June 2 through his start on Canada Day, Marcum has struggled to the tune of a 2-3 record, 5.24 ERA, and a 1.46 WHIP, while only averaging less than 6 innings per start.  Very un-Marcum like.  Hopefully he’ll come back with a vengeance.

But there are also two negatives about the Marcum injury.  The first is obvious.  SHAUN MARCUM IS INJURED! Our opening day, and most consistent, starter.  Our ace.  Our stopper who dominates after Jays losses.  The other negative is that Toronto now has to replace him.  To do that, AA called up Marc Rzepzcynski from Vegas.  As I pointed out in Monday’s Weekly Things column, Rzep was starting to pitch better at Triple-A (including a win with 2 ER in 5 IP on Monday).  But Jessie Litsch is still wildly inconsistent and could possibly use some more time in the minors – now impossible.  Rzep’s call up was supposed to be out of convenience.  Now it is out of necessity.  Very dangerous.

The second series of moves made by Anthopoulos saw a role reversal.  Edwin Encarnacion was recalled, forcing Jarrett Hoffpauir back to Vegas.  Jeremy Reed was granted free agency to make room for EE’s return to the 40-man roster.  I don’t care about the jettisoning of Reed.  He was at best a spare part, didn’t prove he could hit while he was here, and basically has no purpose on the roster now that DeWayne Wise is back.  It’s the Encarnacion recall that concerns me the most.

Sure Hoffpauir didn’t do a whole lot up here (.214 average, 0 HR, 0 RBI).  But baseball is a game of sample sizes.  Hoff was only given 9 games and 28 at-bats to prove he belonged – clearly not enough to time to become acclimatized to his new surroundings, teammates, and AL pitching.  Similarly, EE destroyed minor league pitching but did so in an extreme hitters league, and with a very small sample size – 7 games, 32 AB.  The numbers were good, don’t get me wrong (.438 average, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 1.267 OPS).  But one look at his production in the majors (120 AB, .200 average, .765 OPS) is enough to bring tears to a Jays fans eyes.  He also committed five errors in those seven games in AAA to go along with the seven he made in Toronto.  By comparison Hoff had zero in 27 chances.

I’m not trying to argue against Anthopoulos.  I understand that Encarnacion has a better upside and more potential.  I understand that Toronto’s offense has gone AWOL and they need a spark to get them going.  I just question whether EE is the one who can provide that spark, considering he was one of the main culprits who helped put the fire out in the first place.  Who knows – maybe he can catch fire, do just enough to increase his trade value, and we can get him the hell out of here.  Judging from a Twitter response to an informal poll conducted by Jordan Bastian, Jays fans sure hope so (40-8 in favour of never wanting to see EE in a Jays uniform again).

One final note – while many Jays fans are starting to get louder in support of calling up Vegas catcher JP Arencibia (.313 average, 19 HR, 52 RBI), a move was made elsewhere involving a past Toronto “catcher of the future”.  Boston reacquired Kevin Cash from Houston to replace Jason Varitek on the roster (out with a broken foot).  How Cash, with his lifetime .187 batting average and .539 OPS can still find meaningful employment in the major leagues is beyond me.

April Showers Bring May Flowers….May Flowers Bring TERRIBLE JUNE HITTING!

Lind strikes out - a daily occurence in June (from


Poor Ricky Romero.  The Blue Jay left-hander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record.  At 6-4, on the surface Romero appears to be an above-average starter.  But he has been the victim of horrendous run support all season long – most notably in his last two starts.  Despite going 15 innings and allowing only 2 ER, Romero ended up 0-1 with a no-decision as Toronto provided him with a single run of support.  A 1-0 loss to St. Louis last Wednesday was followed by a 2-1 loss to the Indians last night.

But it isn’t just the past week or so that runs have been at a premium.  Toronto’s offensive production in June has completely fallen off the map.  The MLB home run leaders are looking more toothless by the day.  Just look at some of these statistics for the month of June:

Average: .223, dead last in baseball – 15 points back of Seattle for 29th

OBP: .294, second last in baseball

Slugging: .378, 25th (April – .446, 6th; May – .493, 2nd)

OPS: .673, 26th (April – .749, 15th; May – .810, 4th)

Runs: 75, 29th (April – 110, 11th; May – 164, 3rd)

The runs scored figure is particularly discouraging.  In April and May, Toronto’s average and on-base percentage were both poor, yet they still ranked in the top half of all of baseball in runs scored.  Suddenly, they sit second last in the league for the month of June.  75 runs scored equates to an average of only 3.1 per game, and ranks the Jays ahead of only Seattle.  They have scored nearly 100 fewer runs than Texas . 

To state the obvious – if you don’t score you can’t win.  The Blue Jays are 9-15 in June.  They plated three runs or less in 16 of those 24 games, including a stretch of eight games in a row.  It is asking a lot from your pitching staff to win more games than you lose with hitting like that.

So who are the culprits?  The Jays have eight players with over 50 AB this month, and only one – Lyle Overbay of all people – is hitting higher than .280.

Considering an average level of major league production, only Wells (power), Buck (power), Overbay (on base) and Lewis (on base) are having decent months – and that’s stretching it a bit.

The easiest guys to point fingers at are Hill and Lind.  There are 84 players in the American League with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.  Of those 84, Aaron Hill is 78th in OPS and Adam Lind is 81st.  Compared to this point last season (June 28th) the dropoff is astounding:

Hill (2009): .305 average, .512 slugging, .856 OPS, 19 HR, 56 RBI

Hill (2010): .189 average, .365 slugging, .645 OPS, 11 HR, 28 RBI

Lind (2009): .307 average, .545 slugging, .930 OPS, 15 HR, 52 RBI

Lind (2010): .204 average, .344 slugging, .609 OPS, 9 HR, 34 RBI

But even though they have struggled, nobody is picking up the slack this month.

Go ahead and expand the sample to include the rest of the roster, and the picture is even bleaker.  Edwin Encarnacion was sent down due to his terrible performance (.167 average, .313 slugging).  His replacement Jarrett Hoffpauir is hitting .174.  Little used subs Johnny Mac (.143) and DeWayne Wise (.167) are actually hitting worse.  Jose Molina, at 5/14 .357, has been Toronto’s best hitter, but that sample size is too small to mean anything.

But there is good news.  Baseball is, and always has been, a cyclical sport full of ups and downs.  The Blue Jays are only (hopefully) bottoming out, reaching the bottom of the valley before starting an ascent back upwards.  Slumps don’t last forever.  Hell, even the great Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Joe Mauer are hitting well off their career norms, so we shouldn’t be all that upset that Jose Bautista has hit a dry patch.

The best news of all however concerns who is getting close to making an impact on the Blue Jays roster.  Travis Snider is nearing a return and is supposed to return after the all star break.  Triple-A stats have to be taken with a grain of salt (after all Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .407 with a 1.115 OPS since being sent down) but down on the farm, Brett Wallace (.301 average, .869 OPS), JP Arencibia (.306 average, .969 OPS), Chris Lubanski (.308 average, .964 OPS), and Brad Emaus (.310 average, .888 OPS) are tearing it up.  Any of them could make an appearance in Toronto before the season is out. 

But…if the Jays keep hitting like they have been in June, any (or all) of them could make an appearance before July is out.

Random Non-Baseball Rants and Raves

I know, I know.  This is a Blue Jays blog.  I should not be using this space to go off on a tangent about things non-Jays, or non-baseball.  But I have four quick and random non-baseball thoughts to get off my chest.

1. The on-field action at the World Cup has been poor at best.  I can only remember a few good games thus far, maybe Brazil vs. North Korea, Cameroon vs. Denmark, and perhaps Ghana vs. website offline . Australia.  The heavyweights have been brutal.  Italy has been horrendous, France sucks the bag, and England – well, don’t get me started about my boys.  They have been terrible, and even worse they have been painful to watch.  I only hope that the big boys wake up in time, or progression from the group stage will be impossible.

2. The off-field action at the World Cup has been bizarre.  From the annoying vuvuzelas to the backlash against the refereeing, it seems like the actions off the pitch are taking precedence.  But of all the strange activity, nothing has been weirder than the French.  Anelka is sent home because he had an argument with his coach.  Then the players bond together and refuse to practice, in order to show their support for their banished team-mate.  Then, team captain Patrice Evra gets in a near physical confrontation with France’s head trainer.  Then the players leave the practice facility, forcing coach Domenech to read a statement.  Then the team director quits, and throws his credentials to the ground in a fit of fury.  Amazing!  This team is more dysfunctional than the Blue Jays of John Gibbons!

3. Montreal’s trade of Jaroslav Halak is downright baffling.  I understand that he is probably at the peak of his value now, and will demand a lucrative contract.  But that’s all you could get for him?  Judging by how “well” Carey Price has played over the past few seasons, this is a huge risk.  Good thing I’m a Leaf fan or I’d be very upset.  Actually, is that a good thing?

4. The US Open: wow.  Watching that unfold yesterday was like watching a train wreck.  Nobody wanted to win.  Tiger, Phil, Ernie, and Davis Love, all kept moving backwards.  Dustin Johnson did his best impression of me on the 2nd hole, with an amazing flub.  No-name Gregory Havret moved within a stroke of the lead, then blew two golden chances on 17 and 18.  Through it all, leader Graeme McDowell had a chance to blow the field away, but kept bogeying holes of his own.  It was a remarkable tournament that seemed destined to never end.  I don’t think anybody could have caught McDowell even if they added holes.  That was drama and poor shot making at its finest.

There – back to the Blue Jays.

Why I HATE Interleague Play

Would I still think highly of this fat, jolly man if the Jays played him in the regular season? No f-ing way.

Before I begin my rant on why I can’t stand interleague play let me clarify something: I am a baseball fan.  Though the Blue Jays are my favourite team, this has nothing to do with the fact that Toronto is historically bad at it.  I don’t want to see interleague play removed simply so the Jays will have a better record (though of course that would be nice).  I want it gone because I think baseball would be better (and fairer) without it.

Now, as a baseball fan I understand the rationale behind its introduction.  The players strike of 1994 crippled (and nearly killed) baseball.  The game needed something to bring the fans back.  In 1920, baseball was saved by Babe Ruth after the Black Sox scandal nearly ruined the game.  Interleague play was the Babe Ruth of the ’90’s. 

I admit the intrigue was there at the beginning.  Watching the Jays play the Braves in June was fun.  Having Barry Bonds and Larry Walker and Albert Pujols come to Toronto was neat.  This year, until the G20 summit ruined it, welcoming back Roy Halladay would have been special.  But when a concept is implemented solely to win back fan support at the expense of the league, it is time to right the ship.

Some equate the NHL’s introduction of the shootout as a gimmick to win back fan support.  That is true, but here is the difference between the shootout and interleague play: the shootout impacts all teams equally and fairly, and all fan bases equally and fairly.  Interleague play does not.  Here are a few reasons why:

It only benefits some markets

New York Yankees vs. New York Mets, Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs, LA Dodgers vs. LA Angels.  Those are huge rivalries in huge sports markets that inflate the interleague attendance figures. 

But what about the Atlanta Braves vs. Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays vs. San Diego Padres, or Detroit Tigers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks?  Nobody cares about those matchups.  The Blue Jays used to have a great rivalry with the Tigers, but with realignment and the introduction of interleague play, now only see them six times per year, only three more times than they see Arizona, San Diego, and the Giants.  Garbage.

The schedule is unfair

To be frank, the schedule being unfair is only partly the fault of interleague play.  The unbalanced schedule is a terrible idea to begin with, as the Jays have to play three of the best teams in baseball (Boston, New York, and Tampa) 18-19 times each, while teams like Minnesota and Detroit get to play Chicago, KC, and Cleveland. 

But interleague play adds another problem.  There is no way to play each National League team an equal number of times, so baseball rotates each year.  This year Toronto faces Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.  All except Arizona are over .500 and contending for a playoff spot.  Conversely, Detroit – a team that the Jays have to beat to get a Wild Card birth – face the Dodgers, Pittsburgh, Washington, Arizona, NY Mets, and Atlanta.  Half of those games are against last place clubs.  Advantage: Detroit.

It technically benefits NL teams

Though the records don’t always prove it, interleague play should benefit National League teams.  The managers are used to the intricacies of the game, such as the double switch.  The pitchers are used to hitting.  Getting to use a DH is an added bonus.  Our friend the Blue Jay Hunter has commented on this here, so I won’t go too deep into it.

THE BIG ONE – It dilutes the power of the World Series

As I write this, Brazil is facing North Korea in the World Cup.  Though expected by many to be an absolute blowout, this match is also one of the most highly anticipated.  Why?  Because pretty much nobody in the ENTIRE WORLD has a friggin’ clue about North Korea.  They are a mysterious, secretive bunch, which makes the game exciting and intriguing.

That is what used to make the  World Series so much fun – the National League teams were exciting, intriguing, and mysterious.  Sure I could see the highlights on TV, but there was something different about actually watching Deion Sanders face Jack Morris, or John Kruk bat against Juan Guzman.  Interleague play spoils that.  How special would it be if CC Sabathia faces Roy Halladay in the World Series this October seeing how they are facing each other tonight?  I rest my case.

So Bud Selig, if you’re reading this (and I bet a $245 bottle of Johnny Blue that you’re not), do us a favour.  Give us back our normal games and save interleague for the playoffs.  The game will be better off.

And I will be happy.  At the end of the day that is all that matters…on this blog anyways.